SHELLEY GILLESPIE’S-DROUGHT

Drought

by
Shelley Gillespie

Leon crimped the corn silk in his fist as he stood at the edge of the irrigation ditch, staring down at a trickle of brown water. Corn is the thirstiest crop of all, he thought, and wanted to curse it but how could he curse his corn? Instead he’d have to write a letter to Jim to say he couldn’t make this month’s payment. He hated how the cursor flashed its insistent demand for those words as he pecked at the keys. Leon couldn’t rely on his son to write those letters anymore, now that he’d landed the laptop from the divorce. He left the computer on the dining room table and ate his breakfast and dinner accompanied by its hum. The whole house hummed. He’d never noticed that before. The refrigerator, the freezer on the back porch, the laptop, the fans. Before, he noticed the way she set her jaw, razor sharp, and clamped her teeth together like rows of kernels when he came in at dusk. That’s when he’d whistle and she’d say, Stop that damn whistling, you sound like a rusty hinge on some filthy screen door. What’s so bad about that? He’d ask. It reminds me of po’dunk, backwards places no one wants to be.
The corn silk stuck in the grooves of his palm and clung to the cuff of his shirt. He couldn’t clamor enough beside the ditch to change the weather. After several years, he stopped clinging to the hope that she’d change. He just loved the woman he’d first met who’d wanted the land, the chicken coop, and didn’t mind the snowed-in driveway. He could take this harvest for what it was, too, even when he couldn’t go to the bank anymore without breaking into a cold sweat that left cumulus cloud shaped stains on his shirt right between his shoulder blades. Stepping away from the ditch, Leon thought he smelled rain on the breeze. He would write her a letter, too, and stitch corn silk around the P.S. at the bottom:
The ears are beautiful this year, the biggest ever.

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